And another one bites the lethal injection dust. Reports have confirmed that Li Lindong, the truck driver who ran over an ethnic Mongol herder on May 10th in Inner Mongolia’s Xilinhot city, was executed on August 18th. The case has been an lightning rod for controversy, since Li’s murder of the herder, named Mergen, occurred when a group of protesters blocked a road that ran through their village. The ethnic Mongolians were protesting noise and pollution caused by coal trucks traversing through grasslands when Mergen was hit by Li’s truck. Mergen’s body was dragged for 145 meters before he died, and subsequent large scale protests occurred in the wake of the incident.
Li was sentenced on June 8th, with the decision at Xilin Gol League Intermediate People’s Court coming after a six-hour trial. Liu Xiangdong, who was riding shotgun in Li’s vehicle during the time of the incident, was convicted of homicide (by association?) and will serve a life-sentence in prison.
It seems that the government is doing everything they can to err on the side of going overboard, in what can be read as an attempt to appease dissatisfied ethnic Mongolians. The death of Mergen, along with a coal-miner’s murder of a local Han resident who complained of pollution from coal, revealed to the public the high level of tension and conflict currently playing out in Inner Mongolia.
The last thing the leadership in Beijing needs is for violent ethnic tension to fester in Inner Mongolia (currently 79 percent Han Chinese) the way it has in Tibet (currently anywhere between 3 to 50 percent Han, depending on who you believe) and Xinjiang (which has seen the Han population rise from 4 to 40 percent since the 1940s).
Two ethnic Han men also received three-year prison sentences after being convicted of obstructing justice, for blocking police and allowing Li and Liu to escape.